Hate Speech

San Antonio Condemns "Chinese Virus" as "Hateful Speech," Encourages Reporting "to the Proper Authorities or Investigation"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

A just-enacted San Antonio City Council resolution provides, in relevant part (emphasis added):

WHEREAS, COVID-19 is a public health issue, not a racial, religious or ethnic one, and the deliberate use of terms such as "Chinese virus" or "Kung Fu virus" to describe COVID-19 only encourages hate crimes and incidents against Asians and further spreads misinformation at a time when communities should be working together to get through this crisis; and

WHEREAS, the Jewish community has been targeted with blame, hate, antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories about their creating, spreading and profiting from COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, to target and stigmatize specific communities for the COVID-19 outbreak and world- wide spread creates an inexcusable risk to all community members; and

WHEREAS, it is critical that the City of San Antonio take leadership and stand in solidarity with its Asian and Jewish communities to send a message that discriminatory and hate-motivated behavior or violence will not be tolerated; and

WHEREAS, all persons are encouraged to report any such antisemitic, discriminatory or racist incidents to the proper authorities for investigation; and

WHEREAS, the City of San Antonio wishes to affirm its commitment to the well-being and safety of its Asian and Jewish community members and ensure they know they are not alone and that the City of San Antonio is committed to ending the spread of all forms of hate and bigotry;

SECTION 1. The City of San Antonio denounces antisemitism, anti-Asian bigotry, and all hateful speech, violent action and the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 that casts blame, promotes racism or discrimination or harms the City of San Antonio Asian and Pacific Islander, Jewish, immigrant or other communities.

SECTION 2. The City of San Antonio joins cities, counties and states across the country in affirming its commitment to the safety and well-being of all community members, including the Asian and Jewish communities, and in combatting hate crimes targeting Asians, Jews and Pacific Islanders.

SECTION 3. The City of San Antonio will continue its efforts to protect residents and targets and victims of hate, and to prosecute and curb hate acts related to COVID-19 in partnership with nonprofit organizations, the Bexar County District Attorney's Office, the San Antonio Police Department and other law enforcement partners….

This seems not just to encourage "report[ing]" violence "to the proper authorities" for "investigation," but also reporting other "hate-motivated behavior"—"all forms of hate and bigotry"—including "deliberate use of terms such as 'Chinese virus'" and "stigmatiz[ing] specific communities."

I don't use the phrase "Chinese virus" because it's being used as an attempt at political spin, and I prefer my disease names to be more objective and less political. ("Kung Fu virus" strikes me as just silly; "Kung Flu" is at least a pun, though again one that's chiefly used as political spin.)

But "Chinese virus" or the less precise "Chinese flu" seem to me to be quite legitimate political spin—trying to blame China (the political entity) for its role in the spread of the virus—and of course fully protected speech. "Sinophobia" in the sense of fear of Chinese people is irrational, but "Sinophobia" in the sense of fear or dislike of the People's Republic of China is quite sound, though, like all fear or dislike, needs to be treated sensibly.

Blame placed on Jews or Asian-Americans or others for the epidemic is nonsense. Blame placed on China for various of its actions is not nonsense (see, e.g., this), though of course there is a great deal of uncertainty about exactly how much fault China bears here.

And while of course criminal attacks on Asians (or my own group, Jews, or any other group) are bad, that a tiny fraction of the public might react badly as a result of the label "China virus" doesn't strike me as a reason to avoid the speech. Compare, for instance, Wisconsin v. Mitchell (1993), the Supreme Court's leading "hate crimes" case, which upheld Todd Mitchell's enhanced sentence based on Mitchell's having chosen his target based on the target's race:

On the evening of October 7, 1989, a group of young black men and boys, including Mitchell, gathered at an apartment complex in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Several members of the group discussed a scene from the motion picture "Mississippi Burning," in which a white man beat a young black boy who was praying.

The group moved outside and Mitchell asked them: "'Do you all feel hyped up to move on some white people?'" Shortly thereafter, a young white boy approached the group on the opposite side of the street where they were standing. As the boy walked by, Mitchell said: "'You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white boy; go get him.'" Mitchell counted to three and pointed in the boy's direction. The group ran toward the boy, beat him severely, and stole his tennis shoes. The boy was rendered unconscious and remained in a coma for four days.

The blame was rightly placed on Mitchell, not on "Mississippi Burning"; likewise for talk of the "Chinese virus," or for harsh criticisms of police officers that lead a tiny fraction of the public to react by attacking police officers (or violently resisting them during police stops).

Here's the full resolution (minus some procedural details at the end):

WHEREAS, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, more than 3,222,107 cases and more than 228,756 deaths have been confirmed worldwide as of April 30, 2020, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,005,147 cases and 57,505 deaths have been reported in the United States as of April 30, 2020; and

WHEREAS, COVID-19 will not be stopped by political boundaries and was not created or caused by any race, nationality or ethnicity, and the World Health Organization has cautioned against using geographic descriptors that can fuel ethnic and racial discrimination; and

WHEREAS, COVID-19 has infected people from all racial, national and ethnic backgrounds; and

WHEREAS, the City of San Antonio is fully committed to the safety, security, and equal treatment of its residents as it confronts the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, each individual has the ability to promote inclusiveness, celebrate diversity, support all fellow community members, prevent the spread of misinformation, and reject hate and bias in all forms; and

WHEREAS, hate crimes, discrimination and aggression against Asians and Jews are on the rise throughout the country as these groups are being blamed for the COVID-19 outbreak and spread; and

WHEREAS, as our history has shown, times of great fear, uncertainty and unrest can lead to the demonization, blaming, and scapegoating of groups as the "other;" and

WHEREAS, extremists are taking advantage of COVID-19 to spread their hateful ideologies, including antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia, and Sinophobia; and

WHEREAS, amid the growing spread of COVID-19, there are surging reports of bias-motivated incidents targeting members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community in the U.S.; and

WHEREAS, COVID-19 is a public health issue, not a racial, religious or ethnic one, and the deliberate use of terms such as "Chinese virus" or "Kung Fu virus" to describe COVID-19 only encourages hate crimes and incidents against Asians and further spreads misinformation at a time when communities should be working together to get through this crisis; and

WHEREAS, the Jewish community has been targeted with blame, hate, antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories about their creating, spreading and profiting from COVID-19; and

WHEREAS, to target and stigmatize specific communities for the COVID-19 outbreak and world- wide spread creates an inexcusable risk to all community members; and

WHEREAS, it is critical that the City of San Antonio take leadership and stand in solidarity with its Asian and Jewish communities to send a message that discriminatory and hate-motivated behavior or violence will not be tolerated; and

WHEREAS, all persons are encouraged to report any such antisemitic, discriminatory or racist incidents to the proper authorities for investigation; and

WHEREAS, the City of San Antonio wishes to affirm its commitment to the well-being and safety of its Asian and Jewish community members and ensure they know they are not alone and that the City of San Antonio is committed to ending the spread of all forms of hate and bigotry; NOW THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SAN ANTONIO:

SECTION 1. The City of San Antonio denounces antisemitism, anti-Asian bigotry, and all hateful speech, violent action and the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 that casts blame, promotes racism or discrimination or harms the City of San Antonio Asian and Pacific Islander, Jewish, immigrant or other communities.

SECTION 2. The City of San Antonio joins cities, counties and states across the country in affirming its commitment to the safety and well-being of all community members, including the Asian and Jewish communities, and in combatting hate crimes targeting Asians, Jews and Pacific Islanders.

SECTION 3. The City of San Antonio will continue its efforts to protect residents and targets and victims of hate, and to prosecute and curb hate acts related to COVID-19 in partnership with nonprofit organizations, the Bexar County District Attorney's Office, the San Antonio Police Department and other law enforcement partners.

SECTION 4. The City of San Antonio pledges to support the inalienable rights of all people in our community, who should be treated with respect and must remain safe during this pandemic. We call upon all our residents to treat each other with respect.

SECTION 5. The City of San Antonio urges residents to join us in calling attention to these harms and denouncing hate to help keep us all safe during this unprecedented pandemic and beyond….

 

NEXT: Coronavirus Curfews Are Counterproductive and Un-American

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  1. Can we get a similar resolution when a bonehead democrat politician calls a republican a “nazi” without cause or concern?

    1. Grammar nazi alert: you did not capitalize the party affiliation.

      1. Some now do this deliberately to emphasize that no political party now constitutes a “proper” name worthy of capitalization.

        1. I actually did it on purpose because democrat does not deserve any distinction such as that of a proper noun.

          1. It’s fun to watch irrational partisanship displayed in such an idiotic manner.

          2. Actually, you should capitalize it because the Democratic Party is *not* democratic!!!!

      2. Capitalization is not a question of grammar. Nor is punctuation, by the way, in reference to the Short Circuit post.

  2. I hadn’t even heard the one about the Jews spreading the virus. The San Antonio City Council is publicizing hate speech!

    1. And why do you think you hadn’t heard about the Jews spreading the virus? Well?

      1. San Antonioites control the media?

        Chinese Jews control the media?

        It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya!

        1. Chinese Jews…heh…

          1. Armchair Lawyer: There’s a classic joke about that. An American Jew is traveling through China (I heard this back in the 1980s, when China was much less open to the West than now). He manages to get to this small city out in the boonies, and is just walking down the street, when he sees these Hebrew letters on a sign. Odd, he thinks, so he goes inside — and there are these old men praying with each other, in Chinese-accented Hebrew.

            He is utterly transfixed during the whole service; afterwards, he goes up to the rabbi (who is of course himself Chinese), and says, “This incredible! I’m an American Jew, and I’ve never known there was anything like this.” The rabbi looks him up and down and says, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”

            1. “this small city out in the boonies.”

              Oddly enough, that’s where you find the main historic Jewish population in China, the Kaifing branch of Judiasm. A very small branch (~1000 people) it’s a fascinating study in how well the local Jewish population held onto their traditions and religion over the centuries.

              But as for “control over the media by the Chinese Jews”…Let’s not be silly here.

            2. In the version I heard, the punch line was “you don’t rook Jewish.”

              1. …and the teller of said joke relates it while tugging the lateral aspects of his/her eyelids upward to match the “accent” with “appearance.”

                The Kaifeng[sic] Jew story is more a tale for Jewish tourist these days (post WWII and the Communists) than one of historicity. They did/do have a street of the “sinew-pickers,” an allusion to how non-kosher hind limbs were [i]kashered[/i] by removing the sinew there, a tedious take as I understand. (If you want some more modern confluence of Jewish and Chinese history, visit Shanghai.)

    2. Maybe they’re thinking of that Hasidic funeral in New York City? But are San Antonio Jews getting blamed for that?

    3. They are latching onto antisemitism and while a s*hmuck like Morris Dees will fall for it, hopefully no one else will.
      I think they are trying to criminalize things like this: https://anncoulter.com/2020/05/06/lab-theory-of-wuhan-virus-cooked-up-in-a-neocon-lab-2/

  3. 1) This is a bit confusing. The government of San Antonio is condemning truthfully identifying the source of the virus?

    2) Could other states and localities, and perhaps even the country as a whole condemn the use of the word “Russian” in regards to casting blame as “hateful speech”? With penalties to result from it? Because of the threat of hateful speech and actions against our Russian immigrants? Just curious…

    1. A.L. — they are doing far worse than just condemning — having ” the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, the San Antonio Police Department and other law enforcement partners” investigate it is like J Edgar Hoover’s investigation of ML King….

      It has a chilling effect on free speech.

      1. WHEREAS, as our history has shown, times of great fear, uncertainty and unrest can lead to the demonization, blaming, and scapegoating of groups as the “other;” and

        I wish their noble references to history included lessons from other countries that encouraged residents to rat out their neighbors.

        It’s always been about the existence of power, leading to eventual misuse. That the “good guys” wield it “safely” is the mistake.

  4. Someone should remind the city Council in San Antonio that they are host a site that encourages anti-Mexican bigotry.

  5. Oh dear, let’s drag out the Spanish flu, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ….

    1. And what of the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) which came out of Saudi Arabia in 2012 or Ebola virus that originated in the area near the Ebola river in Africa, Hong Kong Flu, There have been a Spanish Flu, The 1957-58 Asian Flu, originated in Guizhou, China (and killed at least 1 million people worldwide.) and Hong Kong flu 1968.
      Why can’t these folks, who are clearly suffering from the PC Flu, stop wasting time looking for speech Unicorns? Speech is speech, which is free, unless it’s causing an actionable physical harm related and specifically to its utterance, and Hate is a feeling which also is free, it’s ugly, but free unless acted upon.
      The intersectionality shown in these people and their resolution is rampant, and when used like this in a non interpersonal manner (1930’s Germany) is usually a misdirection play to slowly take away more freedom.

    2. Miss the big picture often, do you? The “PC Police” aren’t the ones who started this exercise in Big Brother Speech, your side is. For months the terms Coronavirus and Covid-19 were ubiquitous in media reports, governments speeches, and common talk. Those were the terms everybody knew; those were the terms everybody used. It was Trump and the Right who decided common usage needed to be engineered for political ends. They were the ones who demanded everyone change how they talk for propaganda purposes. In this case, the PC Police are almost exclusively you.

      1. grb: Can you elaborate, please, on how “Trump and the Right” “demanded everyone change how they talk”? I know they’d use terms like “Chinese virus,” but I missed their insisting that others stop using “coronavirus” (the way the San Antonio City Council is insisting that people stop using “Chinese virus”).

        1. Really? Well, lets make a deal….

          I’ll concede (gladly) That Trump never tried to impose penalties on anyone who didn’t fall in line with his agitprop. Of course there was that G7 conference where Pompeo scuttled the final statement and brought the meeting to collapse because our allies wouldn’t fall in line with the virus rename, but we’ll write that off as a minor childish tantrum.

          In return, I expect you to concede (manfully) that Trump and his allies harangued, insisted, beseeched, exhorted, ranted, fulminated and (yes) “demanded” & “insisted” that common usage change to meet his propagandistic end. He (and his allies) did so via many a invective and diatribe.

          PS : I had a very simple point. The people here insisting it’s “PC” not to say “China Virus” have it assbackwards. They’re the ones trying to change common usage for reason of politics, not the other way around.

          If you’re feeling extra generous, why not concede that too…..

          1. grb: I’d certainly be open to agreeing with you, if you can point me to some specific examples of such demands that people switch to calling it “Chinese virus.” (“Beseech[ing],” or suggesting, or using the term “propagandastic[ally]” — which I agree is its goal, see my “political spin” point — is a different matter.) I can’t claim to have followed everything “Trump and his allies” have said about this, so I might have missed it; but some specific links would be helpful.

            1. Professor Volokh,

              (1) You keep side-stepping my point, God alone knows why.

              (2) Would it help you to look at the posts I was responding to, where Coronavirus vs China Virus was discussed in terms of political correctness?

              (3) You insist I provide an example of the Trump Administration “demanding” people use their pet term – right underneath a post where I give an example of precisely that. Pretty strange.

              (4) Since your objections are based on a microfilament of rhetoric, would it help if I said Trump and his allies “campaigned” to change common usage for xenophobic purposes? Since the events we’re discussing are clear, maybe we’re just a thesaurus away from agreement.

              1. I’m totally with you on Trump and his allies “campaign[ing]” for people to use “China virus,” as a political tool against China. Indeed, in my original post I made clear that I view the phrase as a political spin — of course, political spin is something that people on one side of a political divide use and try to get others to use.

                As to the Pompeo example, that seems very far removed from the San Antonio example — as I understand it, the U.S. wanted “Wuhan virus” used in a statement, and when others disagreed, there ended up being several separate statements. If the San Antonio City Council simply said that it wanted to use “coronavirus” instead of “Chinese virus” in statements that it itself signs, and refused to sign on to statements that take a different approach, I don’t think that would have even been worth mentioning.

  6. How would you “try” to blame China for this virus? Start to say, “The virus came from China!”, but when you got to “China” you sneezed, so that people didn’t understand you?

    There’s no “trying” here, people actually are blaming China. And rightfully so. Even if they didn’t originate the virus, they seem to have gone out of their way to make sure it would spread to the rest of the world.

    1. Two words: Wet Markets.
      Five more — blowing the cloacae of chickens (to determine their health).

      1. One more: Eww!

        1. Way back in November of 2017, Smithsonian Magazine (no bastion of right-wing conservationism) was warning that China could be “Ground Zero for a Future Pandemic.”

          See: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/china-ground-zero-future-pandemic-180965213/

          1. Trump hadn’t opined on it, yet, so they didn’t realize they needed to be ag’in it.

  7. The ‘proper authorities’ being the Communist Chinese Party?

  8. Thanks for this important article!

    I just reported the San Antonio City Council members to the San Antonio PD and the Bexar County District Attorney for using the hateful speech “Chinese Flu” in their official proceedings.

    1. “Stop! Stop, will you?! Stop that! Stop it! Now, look! No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Do you understand?! Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say ‘Jehovah’.”

      1. Are there any women here?

  9. This is exactly the sort of stuff that will put the Babylon Bee out of business. If it had been made up everyone would scorn it as an obvious but heavy-handed attempt to make the city council of a college town look super woke and stupid in that special university educated way.
    But the satirists were beaten to the punch. We live in special times.

  10. Why aren’t the gays being blamed for the virus?

    1. Oh wait, they are, but nobody cares. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    2. We can’t blame them for every virus, can we?

    3. That was AIDS. Wrong politically protected pandemic.

    4. No, no, no. It’s the Mexican Catholics.

      After all, covid19, like everything else is San Andrea’s Fault. 🙂

      1. Oh boy, it will be awhile before San Andrea will be able to shake that one off.

    5. Their contributions are being diminished and disparaged, as always.

  11. Wow. China Grove must be pretty influential.

  12. I modestly propose we rename the current pandemic the ‘San Antonio Virus’.

  13. Hateful extremists used COVID-19 as an excuse to shut down the economy by extending these lockdowns.

  14. EV,
    I’m usually very grateful when your long entries have a break and a button to see more. A few other conspirators make use of this, but others could be encouraged to build a break point into long posts. I like to be able to scroll up and down thru the new material, to get a sense of it, before deciding how to work thru them.
    In many blog websites, scrolling down triggers the loading of more content at the bottom, which then makes it hard to judge how to reposition back upwards. Reason’s website is not as bad as many, but it’s still an issue where on overlong piece makes the whole site harder to navigate.

  15. Studied distrust of any Chinese government in history is only a rational reaction to the facts on the ground. The vast majority of Chinese Dynasties have been both authoritarian and inept, which is why the Chinese people have become accustomed to eating anything that isn’t moving too fast to catch; they regularly suffer from widespread famines as a result of governmental blundering.

  16. Here is more history to be erased.

    Remember Carl Douglas’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting’? We were mis-hearing it, the near homophone, of course.

  17. Here’s my Chinese Jewish joke. Two Jews go to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. They ask the waiter, “Do you have any Chinese Jews?” The waiter replies, “Me no know. Will ask in kitchen.” He returns and says, “Answer is no. We got orange jews and tomato jews, but no Chinese jews.”

    1. Ha ha ha, nice one!

      1. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

  18. Any ordinary description of nationality becomes hate speech if it is repeatedly spat out with hateful intent by a country’s leaders.

    1. I agree, but also hate speech is protected by the 1A and San Antonio is being dumb.

      1. That’s true also.

      2. There is no such thing as “hate speech” stop using the term.

        1. Look whose all politically correct now. Alas, the VC comments are not your safe space.

  19. The Chinese have something to do with this virus? That’s news to me. I thought from its name that the virus was invented by a Mexican beer company. So, I guess I owe apologies to all those Mexicans and beer merchants I mistakenly insulted. Virus NO! Mexico SI!

  20. Well, I suppose Conflucius would also raise eyebrows.

  21. The Covid 19 virus started in China in the year 2019. That is a fact. You might as well call it the China 19 virus. You, however, may stop blaming the US for slavery as, 1) Slavery has existed in the world for thousands of years (and still exists in Africa, so maybe we should start blaming Africans for slavery today) and 2) the US was one of the world leaders to end slavery in Western civilization. So, stop your racial and ethnic shaming of Americans for slavery. It wasn’t our fault and we helped end it.

  22. @EV: “”Sinophobia” in the sense of fear of Chinese people is irrational, but “Sinophobia” in the sense of fear or dislike of the People’s Republic of China is quite sound, though, like all fear or dislike, needs to be treated sensibly.”

    That I think is subject matter for a larger and more meaningful discussion than this one about the silly nattering of the San Antonio City Council. (What do they propose to do with/to those who go on talking about the “Chinese virus”? Same thing for those who might refer to syphilis as the “French pox,” as it was called by some 500 years ago?)

    That larger and more meaningful discussion, at least IMO, would be about so-called “Islamophobia.” I think that term a serious misnomer meant to spare Islam criticism for inspiring such great horrors, even present day ones. Not hard to come up with examples of such horrors done in the name of Islam by those most insistent on their version(s) of Islamic orthodoxy and dominance, especially in connection with the goal of re-establishing the Caliphate. I was most recently reminded of this, though it is never very far out of mind, by the trials in Germany of returned ISIS member who participated in the horrific genocide of the Yazidis.

    I don’t know why the Council saw the need to mention Jews in their “resolution.” (Was this a “resolution” or what, since it seems to have no force or effect?) The canard of Jews spreading diseases is an ancient one, like the accusation that they poisoned wells. (“Creating” infectious diseases, like AIDS, is a more modern notion, and the Soviet Union concocted that one primarily for use against the US.) So little point in sweeping the Jews in here. And if the Jews are to be included, then mustn’t they decry Islamophobia too, no matter that the charge hasn’t been leveled against Muslims. It seems that whenever antisemitism comes up as a concern, “Islamophobia” is cited as a concern no matter that it may have little relevance or that Islam may be the “inspiration” for the very real antisemitism.

  23. Personally, I prefer the more lilting, “Conflucius”, but I’m a sucker for the rhetorical flourish.

  24. Can a non-binding resolution ever run afoul of the First Amendment if there is no actual law enacted?

    If a resolution stated “The city hereby condemns Canada,” would that be a First Amendment violation? If so, would there be any remedy?

    Does the subject being condemned matter? Instead of “Canada,” what if the city condemned “Canadians,” “Christians,” “Blacks,” “Women,” or “Libertarians”?

    Or are these types of resolutions governed under the “government speech” doctrine (or some other doctrine)?

  25. What about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? Spanish Flue? Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome? Dozens of other diseases named after countries, regions, and places?

    Perhaps people might want to start reporting medical journal articles to the authorities.

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